Trying Communism Through International Criminal Law? - The Experiences of the Hungarian Historical Justice Trials

Kevin Heller, Gerry Simpson (eds.) The Hidden Histories of War Crimes Trials (OUP, 2013) 229-247.

19 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2013 Last revised: 8 Nov 2017

See all articles by Tamás Hoffmann

Tamás Hoffmann

Corvinus University of Budapest; Hungarian Academy of Sciences CSS Institute for Legal Studies

Date Written: August 12, 2013

Abstract

This chapter aims to critically analyse the attempts of the Hungarian judiciary to address crimes committed during the 1956 revolution through the use of international law. These so-called historical justice trials undertook to uncover the true history of the mass atrocities perpetrated against civilians suppressed during the communist regime and bring the perpetrators to justice. However, the Hungarian judiciary proved unable to apply international criminal law, which led to a series of contradictory judgments that left the general populace confused. Coupled with the absence of a popular desire to confront the country’s past, the predominantly technical approach of the trials not only could not fulfil their purpose but might have exacerbated the general indifference. This chapter will thus have a two-fold goal: to demonstrate the inherent problems associated with the direct application of international criminal law in a domestic legal environment, and to tell the story of an unsuccessful attempt to substitute criminal procedures for social reconciliation.

Keywords: international law; international criminal law; international law in domestic courts; international humanitarian law; laws of war; laws of armed conflict; jus in bello; Korbély case

JEL Classification: K33; K14

Suggested Citation

Hoffmann, Tamás, Trying Communism Through International Criminal Law? - The Experiences of the Hungarian Historical Justice Trials (August 12, 2013). Kevin Heller, Gerry Simpson (eds.) The Hidden Histories of War Crimes Trials (OUP, 2013) 229-247.. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2353404

Tamás Hoffmann (Contact Author)

Corvinus University of Budapest ( email )

Hungary

Hungarian Academy of Sciences CSS Institute for Legal Studies ( email )

Orszaghaz u 30.
Budapest, 1015
Hungary

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